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The ILVA Scandal – An Economic Catastrophe Waiting to Happen

The saga of the polluting ILVA steelworks in Taranto in Italy’s south is smouldering on.  While magistrates have seized a major chunk of the huge steelworks considered to be a danger to public health, the owners have been doing their level best to attempt to keep the plant from being shut down.

Italy’s government has expressed concern over the potentially dire consequences of shutting down the plant for the whole Italian economy and is putting pressure on forces of investigators to be more lenient.

Closing the massive Taranto plant, which employs around 12,000 people, to carry out much needed refurbishment works would be a massive blow for the area right in the midst of the global crisis.  However leaving it open would mean that the pollution the plant belches out would continue to threaten and damage the health of the local population.

Tumour Levels 15% Over National Average

Tumour levels in the area of the ILVA plant are 15% higher than the national average in Italy.  Worse still, incidences of lung tumours in the area are a whopping 30% higher than in the rest of Italy.  That there is a problem is undeniable, yet moves are afoot at national level to attempt to prevent the plant shutting down.

Costly central government has waded into the ILVA fray, as it is obviously concerned about the effects of shutting down the plant on the local, and on Italy’s national, economy at a time of crisis.  Italy’s economy is in a sad state.  Production is down over 8% and businesses are in trouble throughout the peninsula.  The effects of the closure of the ILVA plant could reverberate throughout Italy leading to a kind of catastrophic chain reaction.  It is a very sensitive situation – which could have been avoided.

The owners of the plant are on the point of launching a legal challenge to the decision to seize the most polluted sections of the plant.  It is believed that the magistrates who ordered the seizure which may precipitate the closure of the entire plant may not have respected certain proceedures and this could be used to keep the plant running, polluting and killing.

Cover Up

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The position of the owners has been weakened by the revelation of wiretapped conversations in which senior personnel from the plant attempted to ensure environmental reports played down the level of toxic pollution the plant had been producing.  It looks as if corruption has played a part in hiding the true levels of pollution, and that the manipulation of reports on the safety of the Taranto ILVA plant may have been taking place for years.

What Were Italy’s Unions Doing?

For reasons so far unknown, unions representing the workers at the plant appear to have remained strangely silent over the dangers of working at the plant.  So much for protecting their members.  Why did the unions keep so quiet?  Were they paid for their silence?  These are questions investigators are no doubt trying to find answers to.

Disgraceful and Avoidable

The most disgraceful aspect of the whole ILVA situation is the fact that it has been allowed to reach this stage.

With proper, honest, management, the plant could have been rendered less hazardous many years ago.  Instead, the situation was continually swept under the carpet.

The result of what many would probably label as appalling negligence could not only damage the local economy of the Puglia region in which the plant is situated, it could also cost tens of thousands of jobs all over Italy, and in Europe.

Corruption is dangerous.  Perhaps the Taranto ILVA scandal will bring this fact home to the powers that be in Italy.  A nationwide crackdown on corruption is long, long overdue.

The ILVA situation is a disgrace for Italy.  Money, it seems, is much more important than the health of Italy’s citizens.


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